The Young Lady in Pink. New Light on the Life and Afterlife of an Ancient Portrait


  • Jan M. van Daal Utrecht University, Art History, Department of History and Art image/svg+xml
  • Branko F. van Oppen de Ruiter Richard E. Perry Curator of Greek and Roman Art, Tampa Museum of Art; former Visiting Research Scholar and Curator, Allard Pierson Museum



mummy portrait, funerary practices, panel painting, antiquity, archaeology, Egypt, Roman Empire, provenance research, collection


A Roman-Egyptian mummy portrait of a young woman in a pink tunic is part of the Allard Pierson collection in Amsterdam. The portrait is well-known and a key piece of the collection, but has received little scholarly attention so far. The life and the afterlife of the portrait are therefore poorly understood. The authors approach the portrait from different perspectives: its provenance and acquisition, the artist’s materials and techniques, the dating conventions surrounding mummy portraits and their cultural context. The authors advocate for this in-depth multidisciplinary approach primarily because it spotlights specific areas in mummy portraits (in this case, the pearl earrings) where iconography, materials and techniques and ancient socio-economic developments converge. Provenance research proved important not only for securing the object’s bona fide acquisition, but also for tracing its second-life biography. These converging perspectives effectively cast light on research areas where more work remains desirable. In lieu of secure documentation of the archaeological findspot (which is the case with most mummy portraits) this approach is a powerful tool to nonetheless compose histories that help to understand the meaning of mummy portraits in the past and in the present and provide a durable framework for future research.


Allard Pierson Museum. 1937. Algemeene Gids, C.W. Lunsingh Scheurleer and E.F. Prins de Jong (eds). Amsterdam.

Allen J.P. et al. (eds) 1999. Egyptian Art in the Age of the Pyramids [MMA exh. cat.] New York.

Baetjer K. 1995. European Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art by Artists Born Before 1865: A Summary Catalogue. New York.

Bagnall R.S. 1985. Agricultural Productivity and Taxation in Later Roman Egypt. Transactions of the American Philological Association 115, 289–308, DOI:

Barr J., Berge C.M. ten, Daal J.M. van and Oppen de Ruiter B.F. van.

The Girl with the Golden Wreath: Four Perspectives on a Mummy Portrait. Arts 8(3)/92, Ancient Mediterranean Painting 2, DOI:

Barr J. 2020. From All Sides: The APPEAR Project and Mummy Portrait Provenance. In M. Svoboda and C.R. Cartwright (eds), Mummy Portraits of Roman Egypt: Emerging Research from the APPEAR Project, 110–118. Los Angeles.

Bierbrier M.L. (ed.) 1997. Portraits and Masks: Burial Customs in Roman Egypt. London.

Bierbrier M.L. 2012. Who was Who in Egyptology. 4th ed. London.

Boozer A.L. 2021. At Home in Roman Egypt: A Social Archaeology. Cambridge.

Borg B.E. 1990. Mumienporträts: Chronologie und kultureller Kontext (unpub. PhD diss). Göttingen.

Borg B. E. 1996. Mumienporträts: Chronologie, und kulturelle Kontext. Mainz.

Bradley L., Ford J., Kriss D., Schussler V., Pozzi F., Basso E. and Bruno L. 2020. Evaluating Multiband Reflectance Image Subtraction for the Characterization of Indigo in Romano-Egyptian Mummy Portraits.

In M. Svoboda and C.R. Cartwright (eds), Mummy Portraits of Roman Egypt: Emerging Research from the APPEAR Project, 68–78. Los Angeles.

Broux Y. 2015. Double Names and Elite Strategy in Roman Egypt (Studia Hellenistica 54). Louvain.

Brown D. 1999. The Reverend William MacGregor (1848–1937) and the Improvement of Tamworth. Midland History 24/1, 129–146, DOI:

Brunner H. 1956. Friedrich Wilhelm Freiherr von Bissing. 22. April 1873 bis 12. Januar 1956. AOF 17/2, 484–485.

Bryan B.M. 2010. Pharaonic Painting through the New Kingdom. In A.B. Lloyd (ed.), A Companion to Ancient Egypt, 990–1007.

Chichester, DOI:

Canducci D. 1991. I 6475 cateci greci dell’Arsinoite: Prosopografia. Aegyptus 71/1–2, 121–216.

Cardon D., Bülow-Jacobsen A., Kusyk K., Nowik W., Marcinowska R. and Trojanowicz M. et al. 2018. La pourpre en Égypte romaine: Récentes découvertes, implications techniques, économiques et sociales. In P. Jockey (ed.), Les arts de la couleur en Grèce ancienne…

et ailleurs: Approches interdisciplinaires (Bulletin de Correspondance Hellénistique, suppl. 56), 49–79. Athens, DOI:

Cartwright C.R. 1997. Egyptian Mummy Portraits: Examining the Woodworkers’ Craft. In M. L. Bierbrier (ed.), Portraits and Masks: Burial Customs in Roman Egypt, 106–111. London.

Cartwright C.R. and Middleton A.P. 2008. Scientific Aspects of Ancient Faces: Mummy Portraits from Egypt. The British Museum Technical Research Bulletin 2, 59–66.

Cartwright C.R., Spaabæk L.R. and Svoboda M. 2011. Portrait Mummies from Roman Egypt: Ongoing Collaborative Research on Wood Identification. The British Museum Technical Research Bulletin 5, 49–58.

Casson L. (ed. And trans.) 1989. The Periplus Maris Erythraei: Text with Introduction, Translation, and Commentary. Princeton.

Chiari G. 2017. Photoluminescence of Egyptian Blue. SAS Encyclopedia of Archaeological Sciences. Chichester, DOI:

Clarke J.R. 2003. Art in the Lives of Ordinary Romans: Visual Representation and Non-Elite Viewers in Italy, 100 B.C.-A.D. 315. Berkeley–London.

Corcoran L.H. 1995. Portrait Mummies from Roman Egypt (I–IV Centuries A.D.) with a Catalogue of Portrait Mummies in Egyptian Museums (SAOC 56). Chicago.

Corcoran L.H. and Svoboda M. 2010. Herakleides: A Portrait Mummy from Roman Egypt. Los Angeles.

Daal J.M. van and Oppen de Ruiter B.F. van. 2019. The Young Lady in Pink. Ancient Egypt 20/3(117), 14–19.

Daal J.M. van. 2019. Ancient Incarnations: Depicting Human Flesh in Mummy Portraits from Roman Egypt, unpub. MSc Thesis. Amsterdam.

Dal Fovo A., Fedi M., Federico G., Liccioli L, Barone S. and Fontana R. 2021. Multi-Analytical Characterization and Radiocarbon Dating of a Roman Egyptian Mummy Portrait. Molecules 26/17 (5268), DOI:

Delaney J.K., Dooley K.A., Radpour R. and Kakoulli I. 2017. Macroscale Multimodal Imaging Reveals Ancient Painting Production Technology and the Vogue in Roman Egypt. Scientific Reports 7/1 (15509), 1–12, DOI:

Doxiadis E. 1995. Mysterious Fayum Portraits: Faces from Ancient Egypt. London.

Drerup H. 1933. Die Datierung der Mumienporträts. Paderborn.

Eastaugh N., Walsh V., Chaplin T. and Siddall R. 2008. Pigment Compendium: A Dictionary and Optical Microscopy of Historical Pigments. Amsterdam, DOI:

Ebers G. 1893. Antike Portraits: Die hellenistischen Bildnisse aus dem Fajjûm. Leipzig.

Edgar C.C. 1905a. On the Dating of the Fayum Portraits. JHS 25, 225–233, DOI:

Edgar C.C. 1905b. Graeco-Egyptian Coffins and Portraits: Catalogue géneral des Antiquités Égyptiennes du Musée du Caire. Cairo.

El-Shabrawy Gamal M. El- and Dumont H.J. 2009. The Fayum Depression and Its Lakes. In H.J. Dumont (ed.), The Nile (Monographiae Biologicae 89), 95–124. Dordrecht, DOI:

Fischer‐Bovet C. 2018. Official Identity and Ethnicity: Comparing Ptolemaic and Early Roman Egypt. Journal of Egyptian History 11, 208–242, DOI:

Gehad B., Corcoran L.H., Ibrahim M., Hammad A., Samah M., Abdo A.A. and Fekrey O. 2022. Newly Discovered Mummy Portraits from the Necropolis of Ancient Philadelphia – Fayum. Bulletin de l’Institut français d’archéologie orientale 122, 245–264, DOI:

Gelder H.E. van. 1941. Constant Lunsingh Scheurleer in zijn Haagsche milieu. BABesch 16/1, 4–8.

Gelder L. de and Vennik S. 2016. Verzamelaars op tafel: De collectiegeschiedenis van het Allard Pierson Museum gepresenteerd. Allard Pierson Mededelingen 113, 7–9.

Goudriaan K. 1988. Ethnicity in Ptolemaic Egypt (Dutch Monographs on Ancient History and Archaeology 5). Amsterdam. DOI:

Grimm A. 2010. Friedrich Wilhelm Freiherr von Bissing: Ägyptologe, Mäzen, Sammler. Munich.

Guimier-Sorbets A.M. 2018. Believing in Afterlife in Hellenistic and Roman Alexandria: A Study of Some Funerary Paintings. In C.S. Zerefos and M.V. Vardinoyannis (eds), Hellenistic Alexandria: Celebrating 24 Centuries (Papers presented at the conference held on December 13–15 2017 at Acropolis Museum, Athens), 87–94.

Haarlem W.M. van and Jurriaans-Helle G. 1998. Catalogus. Allard Pierson Mededelingen 72–73, 35–41.

Hallett C.H. 2019. Mummies with Painted Portraits from Roman Egypt and Personal Commemoration at the Tomb. In M. Blömer and R. Raja (eds), Funerary Portraiture in Greater Roman Syria, 197–212. Turnhout.

Hardwick T. 2011. Five Months Before Tut: Purchasers and Prices at the MacGregor Sale, 1922. Journal of History of Collections 23/1, 179–192, DOI:

Haspels C.H.E. 1979. Six, jhr. Jan (1857–1926). In Biografisch Woordenboek van Nederland. The Hague.

Hayes W.C. 1953. Scepter of Egypt I: A Background for the Study of the Egyptian Antiquities in The Metropolitan Museum of Art: From the Earliest Times to the End of the Middle Kingdom. Cambridge. Hoorn G. van. 1941. Prof. dr. C. W. Lunsingh Scheurleer als archeoloog. BABesch 16/1, 2–4.

Hupperetz W.M.H. et al. (eds) 2014. Keys to Rome (APM exh. Cat.). Zwolle.

Jørgensen L.B. 2011. Clavi and Non-Clavi: Definitions of Various Bands on Roman Textiles. In C. Alfaro-Giner, J.P. Brun, Ph. Borgard and R. Bierobon Benoit (eds), Purpureae Vestes III: Textiles y Tintes del Mediterráneo en el Mundo Antiguo, 75–81. Naples.

King D. 1996. Roman and Byzantine Dress in Egypt. Costume 30/1, 1–15, DOI:

Krag S. 2017. Changing Identities, Changing Positions: Jewellery in Palmyrene Female Portraits. In T. Long and A. Højen Sørensen (eds), Positions and Professions in Palmyra, 36–51. Copenhagen.

Landvatter T. 2012. Burial Practices in Ptolemaic Alexandria. Bulletin of the American Research Center in Egypt 201, 38–41.

Lee L. and Quirke S. 2000. Painting Materials. In P.T. Nicholson and I. Shaw (eds), Ancient Egyptian Materials and Technology, 104–120. Cambridge.

Loeben C.E. 2013. Friedrich Wilhelm von Bissing. In W. Schepers (ed.), Bürgerschätze: Sammeln für Hannover – 125 Jahre Museum August Kestner, 88–101. Hanover.

Lombardi L. (ed.) 2015. Arthus Sambon: Sulle monete delle provincie meridionali d’Italia dal XII al XV secolo. Terlizzi.

Majcherek G. 2015. Alexandria: Excavations and Preservation Work on Kom el-Dikka, Seasons 2012 and 2013. PAM 24/1, 29–61. DOI:

Majcherek G. 2016. Alexandria: Kom el-Dikka, Seasons 2014–2015. PAM 25/1, 33–52. DOI:

Majcherek G. 2018. Alexandria: Kom el-Dikka, Season 2017. PAM 27/1, 35–56. DOI:

Majcherek G. 2019. Alexandria Kom el-Dikka. Excavations and Preservation Work in the 2018 Season. PAM 28/2, 23–44. DOI:

Mazurek J., Svoboda M. and Schilling M.R. 2019. GC/MS Binding Media Survey: Beeswax, Oil, Protein, Plant Gum and Resin in Romano-Egyptian Mummy Portraits and Panel Paintings. Heritage 2/3, 1960–1985. DOI:

Mazurek J. 2020. Characterization of Binding Media in Romano-Egyptian Mummy Portraits. In M. Svoboda and C.R. Cartwright (eds), Mummy Portraits of Roman Egypt: Emerging Research from the APPEAR Project, 142–147. Los Angeles.

Miliani C., Daveri A., Spaabæk L.R., Romani A., Manuali V., Sgamellotti A. and Brunetti B.G. 2010. Bleaching of Red Lake Pigments in Encaustic Mummy Portraits. Applied Physics A 100, 703–711, DOI:

Monson A. 2013. Greeks in an Egyptian Landscape: The Faiyum under Ptolemaic and Roman Rule. In H. Beinlich, R. Schulz and A. Wieczorek (eds), Egypt’s Mysterious Book of the Faiyum, 89–104. Dettelback.

Moormann E.M. 1999. Een elegante dame uit Den Haag. Allard Pierson Mededelingen 74, 24–26.

Neugebauer K.A. 1942. C.W. Lunsingh Scheurleer. Gnomon 18, 333–334.

Neugebauer K.A. and Bianchi-Bandinelli R. 1943. In Memoriam Prof. Dr. C.W. Lunsingh Scheurleer. BABesch 18/2, 33–34.

Newman R. and Serpico M. 2000. Adhesives and Binders. In P.T. Nicholson and I. Shaw (eds), Ancient Egyptian Materials and Technology, 475–494. Cambridge.

Newman R. and Gates G.A. 2020. The Matter of Madder in the Ancient World. In M. Svoboda and C.R. Cartwright (eds), Mummy Portraits of Roman Egypt: Emerging Research from the APPEAR Project, 24–33. Los Angeles.

O’Neill J.P. et al. (eds) 1999. Egyptian Art in the Age of the Pyramids. New York.

Ogden J.M. 1990. Gold Jewellery in Ptolemaic, Roman and Byzantine Egypt, unpub. PhD diss. Durham.

Oppen de Ruiter B.F. van. 2017. De hellenistische wereld: van Alexander tot Cleopatra. Allard Pierson Mededelingen 144/115, 14–18.

Parlasca K. 1966. Mumienporträts und verwandte Denkmäler. Wiesbaden.

Parlasca K. 1969–2003. Ritratti di Mummie: Repertorio d’Arte dell’Egitto Greco-Romano, Serie B, 4 vols. Palermo and Rome.

Parlasca K. 1983. Ein späthellenistisches Steinschälen aus Ägypten. J. Paul Getty Museum Journal 11, 147–152.

Petrie W.M.F. 1889. Hawara, Biahmu, and Arsinoe. London.

Petrie W.M.F. 1911. Roman Portraits and Memphis IV. London.

Purup B. 2019. A Social Approach to the Sex and Age Distribution in Mummy Portraits. In K.B. Johannsen, J.H. Petersen (eds), Family Lives: Aspects of Life and Death in Ancient Families (Acta Hyperborea 15), 221–246. Copenhagen.

Quaegebeur J. 1992. Greco-Roman Double Names as a Feature of a Bi-Cultural Society: The Case of Ψοσνευς ὁ καὶ Τριάδελφος.

In J.H. Johnson (ed.), Life in a Multi-Cultural Society: Egypt from Cambyses to Constantine and Beyond, 265–272. Chicago.

Riggs C. 2000. Roman Period Mummy Masks from Deir el-Bahri. AJA 86, 121–144, DOI:

Riggs C. 2002. Facing the Dead: Recent Research on the Funerary Art of Ptolemaic and Roman Egypt. AJA 106/1, 85–101, DOI:

Riggs C. 2005. The Beautiful Burial in Roman Egypt: Art, Identity, and Funerary Religion. Oxford.

Roberts C. 2020. Green Pigments: Exploring Changes in the Egyptian Color Palette through the Technical Study of Roman-Period Mummy Shrouds. In M. Svoboda and C.R. Cartwright (eds), Mummy Portraits of Roman Egypt: Emerging Research from the APPEAR Project, 34–45. Los Angeles.

Rogers B. 2010. The Reverend William MacGregor: An Early Industrialist Collector. Antiquity Volume 84(325).

Rooijakkers C.T. 2016. Dress Norms and Markers: A Comparative Study of Coptic Identity and Dress in the Past and Present, unpub. PhD diss. Leiden–Amsterdam.

Rowlandson J. 2013. Dissing the Egyptians: Legal, Ethnic, and Cultural Identities in Roman Egypt. In A. Gardner, E. Herring and K. Lomas (eds), Creating Ethnicities and Identities in the Roman World, 213–248. London.

Raja R. 2021. Adornment and Jewellery as a Status Symbol in Priestly Representations in Roman Palmyra: The Palmyrene Priests and their Brooches. In M.K. Heyn and R. Raja (eds), Individualizing the Dead: Attributes in Palmyrene Funerary Sculpture, 75–118. Turnhout.

Salvant J., Williams J., Ganio M., Casadio F., Daher C., Sutherland K., Monico L., Vanmeert F., De Meyer S., Janssens K., Cartwright C.R.

and Walton M. 2017. A Roman Egyptian Painting Workshop: Technical Investigation of the Portraits from Tebtunis, Egypt. Archaeometry 60/4, 815–833, DOI:

Sambon A. 1914. Catalogue des Objets d’Art et de Haute Curiosité, de l’Antiquité, du Moyen Age, de la Renaissance et Autres. Paris.

Sambon A. 1930. Exposition des arts religieux du haut moyen âge (exhib. cat., 28 Apr. – 1 Jun 1930). Paris.

Sambon A. 1931. Aperçu général de l’évolution de la sculpture depuis l’Antiquité jusqu’à la fin de XVIe siècle. Paris.

Sambon A. 1932. Comparaisons entre des sculptures et des peinture premiers cinq siècles de notre ère. Paris.

Scheurleer T.H.L. 1984. Een terugblik op Constant Willem Lunsingh Scheurleer en zijn museum te ’s Gravenhage. Allard Pierson Mededelingen 31, 13–14.

Schoff W.H. 1912. The Periplus of the Erythraean Sea: Travel and Trade in the Indian Ocean by a Merchant of the First Century. New York.

Schörle K. 2014. Pearls, Power, and Profit: Mercantile Networks and Economic Considerations of the Pearl Trade in the Roman Empire.

In F. De Romanis and M. Maiuro (eds), Across the Ocean: Nine Essays on Indo-Mediterranean Trade, 43–54. Leiden–Boston, DOI:

Sijpesteijn P.J. 1965. Eine Sammlung von Mumientäfelchen im Allard Pierson Museum zu Amsterdam. Oudheidkundige Mededelingen uit het Rijksmuseum van Oudheiden te Leiden 46, 34–43.

Sotheby, Wilkinson and Hodge. 1922. Catalogue of the MacGregor Collection of Egyptian Antiquities. London.

Spaabæk L.R. 2012. Mummy Portrait Supports. In J. Hill Stoner and R. Rushfield (eds), Conservation of Easel Paintings: Principles and Practice, 65–68. London–New York.

Spaabæk L.R. and Mazurek J. 2020. Binding Media and Coatings: Mummy Portraits in the National Museum of Denmark and the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek. In M. Svoboda and C.R. Cartwright (eds), Mummy Portraits of Roman Egypt: Emerging Research from the APPEAR Project, 148–52. Los Angeles.

Svoboda M. and Cartwright C.R. (eds) 2020. Mummy Portraits of Roman Egypt: Emerging Research from the APPEAR Project. Los Angeles.

Sutherland K., Sabino R.R. and Pozzi F. 2020. Challenges in the Characterization of Binding Media in Mummy Portraits. In M. Svoboda and C.R. Cartwright (eds), Mummy Portraits of Roman Egypt: Emerging Research from the APPEAR Project, 8–15. Los Angeles.

Swift E., Stoner J. and Pudsey A. 2021. A Social Archaeology of Roman and Late Antique Egypt: Artefacts of Everyday Life. Oxford. DOI:

Thiboutot G. 2020. Egyptian Blue in Romano-Egyptian Mummy Portraits.

In M. Svoboda and C.R. Cartwright (eds), Mummy Portraits of Roman Egypt: Emerging Research from the APPEAR Project, 46–53. Los Angeles.

Thompson D.L. 1982. Mummy Portraits in the J. Paul Getty Museum. Malibu.

Vandorpe K. 2012. Identity. In C. Riggs (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Roman Egypt, 260–276. Oxford. DOI:

Vogelsang-Eastwood G. 2000. Textiles. In P.T. Nicholson and I. Shaw (eds), Ancient Egyptian Materials and Technology, 268–298. Cambridge.

Walker S.E.C. and Bierbrier M.L. with Roberts P. and Taylor J. (eds) 1997. Ancient Faces: Mummy Portraits from Roman Egypt (Catalogue of Roman Portraits in the British Museum 4). London.

Wallert I. 1959. Friedrich Wilhelm Freiherr von Bissing: Verzeichnis seiner Schriften (1895–1956). ZÄS 84, 1–16.

Wallis H. 1898. Egyptian Ceramic Art: The MacGregor Collection; a Contribution towards the History of Egyptian Pottery. London.

Walton M. and Trentelman K. 2009. Romano-Egyptian Red Lead Pigment: A Subsidiary Commodity of Spanish Silver Mining and Refinement. Archaeometry 51/5, 845–860, DOI:

Ward C. 2021. Ornamenta Muliebra: Jewellery and Identity in the Roman Period. In A.J. Batten and K. Olson (eds), Dress in Mediterranean

Antiquity: Greeks, Romans, Jews, Christians, 95–108. London, DOI:

Whitehorne J. 1982. The Ephebate and the Gymnasial Class in Roman Egypt. Bulletin of the American Society of Papyrologists 19, 171–184.

Zanker P. 2016. Roman Portraits: Sculptures in Stone and Bronze in the Collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York.




How to Cite

Daal, Jan M. van, and Branko F. van Oppen de Ruiter. 2022. “The Young Lady in Pink. New Light on the Life and Afterlife of an Ancient Portrait”. Studies in Ancient Art and Civilisation 26 (December):125-62.